Where to Recycle VHS Tapes: Services, Tips and More

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We’re at a point in history when every household seems to have acquired a collection of dusty VHS tapes. Streaming services have ruined most dreams of continuing to watch videos in this format. If you’re ready to get rid of your tapes, you may want to think twice before throwing them away, though — they don’t need to go into the trash.

There are various local, regional and national options for recycling VHS tapes, and they offer helpful options for keeping tapes out of landfills. Where can you take your old tapes, and how much will it cost? Here’s what you need to know.

Is It Ok to Throw VHS Tapes in the Trash?

Many municipal landfills and waste-disposal centers accept VHS tapes along with regular household trash. However, recycling VHS tapes is a much more environmentally friendly option. Plastic is the main component of VHS tapes, and plastic is a huge problem for landfills.

It takes an average of 500 years for most plastic to break down and decompose back into the soil. Especially considering how ubiquitous plastic is to modern life, plastic is a major contributor to the problem of landfills being filled up too quickly. There is only so much land on Earth. The materials can be repurposed when you recycle a VHS tape rather than throw it away. 

The tape wound inside the spools of a VHS tape is also a concern when you discard an old video. There is a metal and chemical coating on the tape. Throwing a VHS in a landfill isn’t going to create a hazardous situation, but it is not good for the environment. As a tape sits in a landfill for hundreds of years, that chemical coating will slowly break down and leach into the soil.

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Are VHS Tapes Recyclable?

Recycling VHS tapes is often not as easy as visiting your local recycling center. VHS tape recycling is more specialized because of how the tapes are made. The outer plastic shell is the easiest part to recycle. However, the inside has coils of tightly wound tape. That tape allows a VCR player to transmit the video onto a TV screen. The tape has a magnetized coating with unique metals, and most recycling centers cannot process it. 

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Recycling a VHS tape involves separating each of its components and sending them in different directions. To add another layer of complexity, some companies were very creative with the way they designed VHS tapes. Some of them have plastic labels. Others have foil, and some have paper. Since most VHS tapes are at least 10 years old, removing any labels without leaving behind residue can be difficult. 

Although it may not be easy, you could recycle a VHS tape on your own. First, you need to carefully remove any labels or stickers on the outside of the tape. Then, you can open up the outer cartridge to remove all of the tape from the inside. The remaining plastic is No. 5 plastic, which most recycling centers are equipped to process. You still have to find something responsible to do with the leftover tape, but the rest of the VHS is recyclable. Since the tape is coated with metals, throwing the remaining spools in the garbage is not the most environmentally friendly idea. This is why many people turn to professional recycling centers. 

Why Is It Hard to Recycle VHS Tapes?

For VHS tapes, recycling is sometimes more costly for the consumer because it is more expensive for the recycling business. The magnetic tape, called Mylar tape, is challenging to recycle. In other types of recycling, the recycling center renders your discarded goods back to pure forms of materials that other companies want to use for manufacturing. That’s why many other types of recycling are free.

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For example, there are valuable metals inside cell phones. Recycling centers make money from dismantling old cell phones and selling metals. That’s why you’ll even find some cell phone recycling kiosks that pay you for recycling your device. When it comes to magnetized Mylar tape, there are few companies willing to pay for it and few materials that you can make from breaking it down. 

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VHS Tape Recycling Services

There are recycling services around the country that accept VHS tapes. Although recycling VHS tapes is an environmentally friendly deed, the net benefit to the earth can be reduced by shipping the tapes to a recycling center thousands of miles away. Instead, it is best to find one in your region. Earth 911, Green Citizen and Recycle Nation are websites that allow you to search for recycling centers by location. 

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The cost of recycling VHS tapes varies from place to place. It’s free to recycle them in some areas. In other places, you may pay a set rate per pound. Other companies simply make you pay the shipping cost to get your tapes to the recycling center.

One VHS tape will not poison drinking water or expose local citizens to radiation, but environmental problems rarely come from one action by one individual. In the coming decades, more households will look to get rid of millions more old VHS tapes. The collective effect of so many chemicals released in landfills can be large. You can do your part by recycling whenever possible.

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